Wife of woman who sued Wal-Mart in same-sex bias case dies

Diana "Dee" Smithson, left, and Jacqueline Cote

Diana "Dee" Smithson, left, and Jacqueline Cote Derek de Koff

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — The wife of a Massachusetts woman who filed a class action lawsuit accusing Wal-Mart of wrongly denying employee benefits for same-sex spouses has died.

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders says New Bedford resident Dee Smithson died Friday of ovarian cancer.

Smithson’s wife, Jacqueline Cote, sued in July in U.S. District Court in Boston seeking damages for the couple and any other Wal-Mart employees whose same-sex spouses were denied medical insurance.

Cote says Wal-Mart repeatedly denied insurance for Smithson before 2014, when it started offering benefits for same-sex spouses.

The couple married in 2004. They incurred at least $150,000 in medical costs after Smithson was diagnosed with cancer in 2012.

GLAD helped file the suit. A spokeswoman says Smithson’s death shouldn’t affect the case.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has said its benefits coverage was consistent with the law.

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